Dear Amy: My youngest child is in her 40s. She is kind-hearted, a giver and allows others to take advantage of her.
I applaud her attitude of wanting to be helpful, but I know she often resents the person who accepts her help because she'll text me about it in a way that lets me know she's not happy. I've told her (apologies to Eleanor Roosevelt) that nobody can take advantage of her without her consent, and have encouraged her to say no if she really feels put upon or overextended.
If I react too strongly I risk alienating her (she seems to have no problem bristling at me). Her husband is also bothered by this tendency of hers but seems equally powerless to effect any change.
What also troubles me is the potential adverse effect of her behavior on my 3-year-old grandson, an only child. She seems to want to be liked, and has many friends, but can't seem to bring herself to refuse someone a favor.
Dear Father: Your daughter is a grown woman. You (and her husband) have already tried to urge her toward change by giving her advice and pointing out the obvious. You sound like good guys who care about her. She vents to you but then discounts your sound, logical and 100 percent correct advice.
I am going to suggest something that might be very challenging for you: It's time to back away from this problem.
The next time you get a text where she complains about being taken advantage of, you should respond by saying, "Bummer. This sounds tough!" If she further engages you by complaining about being taken advantage of, you simply say, "I'm sorry you're unhappy, honey. I wish you weren't so hard on yourself."
Your daughter already knows how to change this dynamic. Her life will be easier and more joyful if she has some positive energy left over for herself and her family. Being more careful about her commitments will also make her feel better about those times when she does choose to step forward for a friend.
If she doesn't manage to do this, her son will grow up with a mother whose generosity is always tempered by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction.